Iraq



Remembering America’s Unnecessary Wars

Published May 28th, 2011 by tcarpenter

My colleague Doug Bandow has a terrific article on the Huffington Post website that is especially appropriate for Memorial Day.  He makes a compelling case that contrary to the platitudes that we will hear this weekend about how “freedom is not free,” and that we owe our freedoms to those who died in America’s wars, the truth is much more troubling.  The reality is that many of this country’s wars–and nearly all of them since the end of World War II–have had little or nothing to do with defending the freedom of the American people.  Instead, the motives ranged from misplaced humanitarianism (e.g., the Balkan wars and Libya), to insane attempts to impose enlightment and democracy on pre-industrial societies (e.g., Afghanistan), to cynical attempts to project U.S. power for dubious, if not sleazy, motives (e.g., Vietnam and Iraq.)

Doug argues that all too often the political elite in the United States has used American soldiers as nothing more than “gambit pawns” in a global strategic chess match.  He’s right.  And the best tribute we could give on this Memorial Day to those who have lost their lives in such conflicts (including two good friends of mine in the Vietnam War) is to make sure that our troops are never again sent into harm’s way for frivolous reasons. 

Is Iraq’s New Boss the Same as the Old Boss?

Published February 27th, 2011 by tcarpenter

When the Bush administration decided to invade and occupy Iraq, a key stated goal was to bring democracy to that country.   But aside from periodic elections with competing parties, the new Iraq is beginning to resemble the old Iraq.  In particular, the government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is treating journalists and other critics with intolerance and outright brutality reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Disturbing evidence of such repression has been building for at least the past two years, but the developments this week are truly shocking.  As with many other countries in the Middle East, demonstrations have broken out in Iraq demanding, among other things, an end to the Maliki government’s rampant corruption.  Those demonstrations culminated on Friday with a “Day of Rage.”  Although the demonstrations even on that day were mostly peaceful, security forces killed at least 29 participants.

They also rounded up dozens of journalists, writers, photographers, and intellectuals who had been involved in organizing the rallies.  Late in the afternoon, the Aldiyar Television station, which had telecast footage of the demonstrations, reported that security forces arrested seven employees, including a director and an anchorman, and closed the studio.

One of the many other journalists arrested that day in Baghdad was Hadi al-Mahhi, who told Washington Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen what happened after soldiers arrested him and several colleagues while they were sitting at an outdoor cafe.  The soldiers loaded al-Mahdi and the others into Humvees and drove them to a side street, where they beat them severely.  Then, they took them to a former defense ministry building that now houses a unit of the army’s increasingly feared intelligence unit.  Mahdi was taken to a room alone, where he was beaten again with clubs, boots and fists.  Not satisfied with such garden-variety brutality, they took his shoes off, wet his feet, and administered electric shocks.

This is the new Iraqi democracy for which the United States spent $800 billion and sacrificed nearly 4,500 American lives.  An Iraq in which regime opponents are arrested and tortured, in which more than a third of the terrorized Christian community has fled, and in which more and more women are being forced back under the veil by religious zealots.  One hopes that the Obama administration learns from the folly of its predecessor and resists the siren calls that we’re now hearing to intervene in Libya and other countries to bring the blessings of democracy to those populations.